The underdog of kitchen kit

Microwaves offer operators more than just convenience, say firms

Catering equipment firms have warned operators against purchasing domestic microwaves.

FOOD is of great importance in today’s on-trade, with more pubs and bars than ever before capitalising on and catering to this growing demand.

As a quick and convenient way to prepare many ingredients and dishes it’s no surprise that commercial microwaves have become a staple in many pub kitchens.

But catering equipment firms told SLTN that, when it comes to an outlet’s food operation, a microwave can offer a lot more than simple convenience.

“Today’s microwave ovens are sophisticated, yet easy to use and produce excellent cooking results in a fraction of the time it takes to cook foods conventionally and their versatility is underestimated,” said Kris Brearley, sales director of RH Hall.

He added that, if used properly, the microwave “will form a key part of the kitchen operation and the ability to serve a full menu”.

Echoing this view, Iain Phillips of Panasonic UK said that for some pubs, a microwave “can act as an additional member of the kitchen team, assisting with the consistent preparation of a variety of tasks”.

Phillips stressed that a microwave’s versatility mustn’t be overlooked, adding that it can be used for a range of food preparation, including: tempering chocolate, drying herbs, proofing dough, roasting garlic, toasting nuts, making jams, as well as the general reheating/defrosting and general cooking of recipes.

But for a microwave to continually operate at its best, it is imperative that licensees put a maintenance routine in place.

Brearley of RH Hall reckons that it is “incredibly important that [microwaves] are well maintained to reduce any unplanned downtime”.

Domestic microwaves will not cope with the rigours of a professional kitchen.

Phillips agreed, and said there are several standard maintenance steps licensees should follow.

“Firstly, once you have chosen your oven, you must carry out a regular cleaning regime to ensure its effectiveness and reliability,” he said.

“Certain recurring breakdowns are preventable; burnt ceiling plates, cracked base plates and penetration by grease into working parts will not be covered by a manufacturer’s guarantee and the cost for repair will lie with the operator – but a simple cleaning routine at the end of every service will help ensure your microwave will function throughout service.”

Similarly, Brearley said that a regular microwave cleaning and servicing routine “are key to ensure users get the maximum lifespan from their microwave”.

However, even the most dedicated licensees will need to replace their equipment eventually. And when they do, it’s important to purchase the right unit for their needs.

Phillips urged operators not to focus solely on price when shopping for a microwave, as not all units offer the same build quality.

“Cheap microwaves are cheap for a reason; weaker motors and door hinges, poor design and inefficient heat distribution all lead to a lower purchase price, and ultimately poor performance,” he said.

Another false economy is trying to save money by purchasing a domestic microwave for use in a commercial kitchen, according to Brearley.

He said that a domestic microwave “will not cope with the rigours of a professional kitchen”.

“Importantly, any warranty provided with a domestic machine will also be invalid if used in a commercial environment, meaning that an operator could be faced with regular costly repairs or replacements,” said Brearley.

And while a domestic microwave is designed to be used up to three times a day, commercial microwaves can handle cycles of over 200 per day in a professional kitchen, according to Phillips.

“A well built professional commercial microwave from a well known brand will have been tested to fully endure the rigours of a commercial kitchen – and easily cope with a stressed chef closing the door with a little more vigour,” he said.

These aren’t the only factors to consider, however.

Brearley of RH Hall reckons anyone looking to acquire a commercial microwave “should look at their menu and decide what tasks the microwave oven should undertake”, adding that staff training is of vital importance if operators wish to make the most of a versatile commercial microwave unit.

“To maximise usage of a microwave or oven effectively, I think it is paramount that all caterers are educated as to the full potential of their unit,” said Brearley.

“By fully understanding a microwave, and getting the right techniques for each type of food, succulent meat, poultry and fish together with perfectly cooked vegetables that retain taste, texture and nutritive value are all possible.”